Friday, May 28, 2010

Hampton Court Palace

By Claire
Our campground here at Abbey Wood is filling up for the Bank Holiday weekend. It’s a beautiful place—very quiet and very well run.

We located a T-Mobile shop close by, about two stops away on our overland train connection into London. I even called on our cell phone to ask about USB modem deals—the reason we bought the phone—to make reservations at the now crowded campgrounds with summer coming on, and for problems like we’ve had with internet access.

On the way, I just couldn’t resist this sign. What exactly does this mean?

T-Mobile had a pretty good deal but we decided to talk to the three other companies located either next door or across the street. Two turned out to be closed so we went into Vodaphone. I really liked Jerome, who helped us. He was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. When he asked where in the States we were from, I asked how he could tell we were Americans. “Good teeth” he responded quickly. We all laughed. He ended up selling us a 3 GB internet modem (stick) with one month for £25 that we can top up for £15. The two deals were pretty much the same in cost but we liked this one better for the extra GB and Jerome just knew more. His sidekick, William, was also extremely polite, professional and friendly. We keep finding this kind of service all over London. On top of that, Vodaphone claims to have the broadest coverage in the UK. We asked about the “content lock” issue and Jerome gave me his personal mobile number so that I could call him once I had activated the stick and then he would remove the lock himself. Everything worked like a charm and we are up and running again. It’s been a very frustrating few days in terms of access. It’s amazing how critical it is to do any kind of travel planning.

We were glad to find out that we could reach Hampton Court Palace by train rather than have to drive there. In fact, it’s only 30 minutes out of London. Better yet, because we traveled by train, we received a 2 for 1 offer on the admission price! Not bad. Thanks Connie, for recommending that we go.

The very helpful cashier explained everything to us as we bought our tickets, gave us a pile of information and maps and away we went. She had pointed out that there were several events today and I saw that there was something starting in just a few minutes: Gentlemen are invited to attend the King in Council while his new bride seeks advice from the ladies. While we waited for it to begin, I noticed a woman in costume surrounded by school children.


Hampton Court Palace was the home of Henry VIII. Today they were re-enacting his marriage to Katherine Parr. Chuck went off with the men and I joined the women and two costumed actors portraying Katherine Parr and her sister (the same one surrounded by the children).

As hokey as it sounds, these actors were first class and really brought the period to life. We went to a small garden and sat on benches while Katherine Parr sought advice from her sister about her upcoming marriage.

After awhile, a footman arrived to announce that Katherine was wanted in the Council Chamber. Although women are not normally allowed, we were able to follow her in. There was Chuck sitting next to Henry VIII.

Katherine had to answer two questions regarding her ability to be Regent in Henry’s absence when he leaves to start a war with France. The guy playing Henry was so good I felt like he was the real thing. When he burst into an angry loud voice, it was so believable and yet, very fun at the same time (we were warned by the footman that no smiling or giggles would be allowed in the Council Chamber).

After Katherine finished with her answers and was approved by the Council, her sister looked at me and asked if I wanted a private audience with the King. I was taken aback. Uh, OK. She chose another woman and then noticed Chuck and asked if we were together. He was allowed to join us. This was all done very seriously and in her role. We were escorted to the King’s private chamber, the footman yelling to people touring the palace, "GET OUT OF THE WAY, AN IMPORTANT DELEGATION IS GOING TO SEE THE KING!"

The three of us entered a room and there was Henry. I was nervous but enjoying every second. Chuck was great with the “Yes, your Grace” and it was all just a little bit surreal. Henry was enormous and even limped from his bad leg. He told us about his health issues and his concerns for England and how badly he wanted another son. The entire time this was going on I just kept thinking, this is so fantastic I will never forget it.

We bowed and said goodbye and began the audio tour of the private apartments. The audio tour was more distracting than anything. I think it would have been better without it. But, the rooms were really something, especially the chapel. To me, this is a must see site when you are in England.

We found ourselves back in the inner courtyard where Henry and his bride were being presented to the crowd. The marriage had taken place in private.

We made our way out to the gardens, bought an ice cream cone and sat on a bench in the sunshine. Walking around, we suddenly remembered the maze. It was a long ways off but with good signs, we found it. I’ve never been in a maze before and it was fun. We kept passing a group who got lost a few times but we made it all the way to the center and out.

We were really dragging by this time. This is our third day of getting up early and returning home late. We have walked and walked and walked, even inside the underground where you sometimes have to go several levels and it almost seems like it might have been faster to walk to your destination above ground.

We remembered a place Rick Steves recommended for a good, reasonable meal: St. Martin-in-the-Fields Crypt Café. It was really easy to find, the food was great, the money goes to charity and we loved being down in a crypt.

Chuck ordered the sausage, mash and cooked red cabbage. I got the vegetarian meal of vegetables in a tomato sauce, baked potato, garlic bread and salad. We both had a beer, feeling very relaxed now that we were sitting down. Dinner only came to £21—a real bargain in this city. They also have soup and bread and big salads and desserts too. We are hoping to have tea here tomorrow afternoon. A Vivaldi concert was starting in about 20 minutes in the church but we were just too whipped to even consider it.

Another wonderful day in London.

♪ I'm Henery the Eighth, I Am ♫ ~ Herman's Hermits, 1965


Toni said...

Tony and I had a great time in the maze there. Unfortunately the gardens were closed the day we were there. We loved looking out over The Thames on our visit.

Pat in Santa Cruz said...

Wow, you are having so much fun! Henry VIII sure does look the part. Wish I could hear his voice. The interaction with the players sounds wonderful. Chuck right next to Henry!!!
So glad that you connected with Chuck's sister.
If you google "anti-climb paint" you'll get the whole story.
I won't pretend to understand your internet connection technology acquisition stories -- but getting more frequent posts works for me!